Mariupol is holding out. The ultimatum issued by the Russian army and the incessant attacks by Russian troops have been of little use, and the besieged city of Mariupol continues to be a key focus of Ukrainian resistance. So much so that the resistance is demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the Russian army in its attempts to take over the region.
Despite the violence and attacks, Moscow has not managed to take control of any Ukrainian city, with the exception of Kharkov. What is assiduously prevalent are Russia's continued attacks on both military and civilian targets.
Ukraine is being reduced to rubble. International analysts are critical of Russia's actions in its attempt to take control, as the strategy it is employing is one of total destruction. Journalists such as Felipe Sahagún point out that "an army that is not capable of conquering a country or a part of it without reducing it to rubble does not deserve to be called an army, but a criminal or terrorist gang. There are many examples in history. Today's Russian attack in Ukraine is yet another".
Even as the attacks continue to drag on, the Ukrainian army has been clear in its message: "We will not surrender. Ukraine will resist to the end", and so far this is proving to be the case. This was reiterated by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal, who said in an interview that "the city has not fallen. Our military forces, our soldiers are still there. They will fight to the end".
According to the city's mayor's office, an estimated 21,000 people have died in Maroupol alone since the beginning of the Russian invasion, while 100,000 citizens are still besieged in the city and unable to leave. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military are holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, in the middle of a city that has been reduced to nothing.
Azovstal is the key point of resistance. It is here that Russia this morning issued a new ultimatum calling on Ukrainian forces and foreign fighters at the plant to "surrender" by noon Moscow time.
A map of the approximate situation on the ground in Ukraine as of 00:00 UTC 20/04/22. pic.twitter.com/sRrEmKERIe— Ukraine War Map (@War_Mapper) April 20, 2022
"All those who lay down their arms are guaranteed to come out alive," the statement said. However, Ukraine is not giving in, as demonstrated by the fact that with this latest warning, no Ukrainian military personnel have left their position.
On the other hand, in a televised message, the President of Ukraine, Volodomir Zelensky, has indicated that "the situation in Mariupol remains as difficult as possible and unchanged (...) This is such meanness, which for generations will mark the Russian state as a source of absolute evil".
The Ukrainian authorities say there are more than a thousand people hiding in bunkers and tunnels under the city. Russian forces are reportedly dropping heavy bombs on the factory in an attempt to destroy the enclave.
Mariupol is seen as one of Russia's most important strategic points. The city has a key position as a major port on the Sea of Azov, and Moscow's control would mean dominating a corridor linking the Donbas region with the Crimean peninsula, a territory annexed by Russia in 2014.
The strategic importance of Mariupol for Moscow is the key point that explains Russia's determination to take control of the area, at any cost. On 18 April, British intelligence noted in a report that 'Russian commanders will be concerned about the time it is taking them to win Mariupol. The concerted resistance of the Ukrainians is severely testing the Russian forces and forcing them to divert men and materiel, slowing their advance elsewhere'.
It is for this reason that Russia decided to change its military strategy to focus solely on eastern Ukraine. Even so, this new strategy does not seem to be helping the Kremlin to achieve its main goal: to control eastern Ukraine, divide the country and annex the latter, just as it did with Crimea.
Ukraine has demanded that Russia create humanitarian corridors to provide an escape route for civilians. So far, no large-scale evacuation has taken place and most of the population has not been able to leave.
Más de 120 civiles abandonaron Azovstal. Aprovechando una pausa, los civiles de Mariupol, que se convirtieron en rehenes de los militantes neonazis, finalmente pudieron salir de los sótanos de las casas que se encuentran directamente en el puesto de control principal de Azovstal. pic.twitter.com/t3xPHzpX50— Ucrania. Noticias del otro lado. (@UcraniaOtro) April 19, 2022
However, due to the expected heavy attacks, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk indicated that "given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, it is in this direction that we will focus our efforts today". "We managed to agree in advance on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly," she said. "Meeting in Mariupol today, 20 April, from 14:00 [2:00 pm local time] at the corner of Taganrog Street and 130th Taganrog Division".
In addition to the impossibility of escape, there is a shortage of resources, food and water. According to Zelensky, "Ukraine and its people are clear. We have no right to anyone else's territories, but we will not give up ours". The Ukrainian army will continue to "resist" and this he says will be "decisive for the war". He also points out that it is impossible to know whether Russia will decide to resume the offensive on Kiev if it manages to take control of the Donbas.
Russia's decision to focus on eastern Ukraine has led to increased military and economic shipments from the US and the European Union. In this sense, US President Joe Biden has reportedly agreed with NATO and EU countries, as well as the G7, to increase economic support for Kiev.
Countries such as Germany have pledged full "financial and family support" to Kiev and have announced that they will continue to allow arms supplies. According to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Vladimir Putin's actions on Ukraine are 'unacceptable', adding that 'Russia cannot win this war'.
International leaders continue to condemn the suffering that would have been caused by the "unprovoked" and "unjustified" Russian invasion, and have agreed to continue coordinating efforts jointly through NATO and the G7.
In this vein, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is expected to travel to Kiev to meet with Zelensky. All this comes two months before Madrid is due to host a new NATO summit, in a context marked by international tensions and the unusual configuration of a new world order.